Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Calendar of the Judged

-- about to whap somebody accidentally with the log in his eye --

It has come to my attention that I may have been judging a few people. OK, maybe a LOT of people . . . and systems . . . and groups and stuff. OUCH! I would have liked to have been holier than that. Anyway, what an opportunity for a Lenten resolution!

While on the road this summer my family visited a Catholic church that had a calendar in the bulletin. Each day had the name of a different priest of the diocese. The idea is that the faithful would take the calendar home and get in the habit of daily prayers for priests.

Have you ever stubbed your toe and not been able to think, in the pain of the moment, who to offer it up for? I hate it when that happens. Wasted pain bugs me.

So using the name-of-the-day method, like on the priest calendar, I can solve both that problem and maybe make up a bit for the sins of my judgmental heart.

This Lent my plan is to write a name of one of my judgees on every day of the calendar for the whole 40 days. It would be nice to think I will need to repeat things to fill all the spots. Not so sure about that but some people might get a whole week of prayers and boo-boos offered up for them out of this.

What an exercise, listing all those I have wronged in my heart!

PS - I have posted two blank Lenten calendars for 2015 on the West Central Wisconsin Catholic website homepage as PDF attachments for the season. Help yourself.  :)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Passing the Princess Test

Question 1: Are you a girl?
Question 2: Have you been baptised?

By listening to Father Mike Schmitz' super-awesome, free, online homilies I have  learned that when you get baptised things change. Before baptism you are a "Beloved Creature of God." After baptism you become a "Beloved CHILD of God."

Until recently this wasn't that interesting or exciting a fact to me. But then I got to thinking.

So God is our king. We have Mary for a mom, although not everyone embraces that. Jesus is the "Prince of Peace." Hmmm. What do you call a girl whose father is the king and whose mother is the queen and whose brother is a prince? Duh! A princess!

Remember that we became children of God at our BAPTISMS, so this isn't something just in the future after we die, this is NOW. (If you are not a girl you are welcome to continue reading this article, just substitute the word "prince".)


This princess business is not all cupcakes and sunshine. We know that in the history books people are always trying to knock off the royal family so they can take over. That is pretty much the case for us, too, while we are still in this world. So think of this life as a big princess test. There are lots of difficulties and trials. Sometimes it seems like the whole universe has got it in for us.

If you pass the test you get to live the really good princess-life with the Holy Family forever with no more bad guys trying to mess you up and steal your crown. (Enter cupcakes and sunshine.) If you fail . . . well, let's just say you don't want to fail the princess test.

Wow. Forever is so long!

More bad news. Even if you pass the test, your job description for eternity will be "Princess." That is only bad in the sense that you never get to be promoted to "Queen". Actually one of the best ways to flunk the princess test is to try to grab the queen or king's crown for yourself. So be a princess and be happy.


Yes. But remember that there are three types of people in this world: "Princesses", "Princes" and "Beloved Creatures of God." So we need to be treating EVERYONE with this kind of respect. Princes and Princesses deserve respect because they are part of the royal family and Beloved Creatures of God get respect because the king LOVES them!


If you think about it you will probably be able to figure out the right answers to the test problems. (Hint: start by checking out Matthew 25.)

And . . . you have all the help you want passing the princess test! All the people who took and passed the test before you and even the Queen, herself, will be happy to give you the answers needed if you ask them.

You may have heard that it's a killer final but don't freak out. Start studying now and ask for lots of help. The princess crown is yours to lose.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I'm a Christian. You're a Catholic. You're not a Christian.

Conversation 1 
Non-Catholic Teen Eating Lunch in Catholic School Cafeteria (referring to the crucifix on the wall):  It's so weird and uncomfortable eating in the same room with a gory, dead body.
My daughter:  A cross without Jesus on it is just a tree.

You know how homeschool kids who want to go to public school always play the I-think-God-wants-me-to-be-a-witness-to-the-poor-lost-souls-at-the-public-school card?  I have always thought of that as probably bunk.

Now my daughter is not some perfect little saint-child but she does know her faith better than most and she loves a good . . . I won't say "fight". She loves a good discussion between herself and differently-minded others that sometimes involves conversational decibel levels rivaling incoming jet planes.

I am FLOORED by how many times she has been called on to defend her faith at the public high school since she started going there.

 Conversation 2
Catholic teen at social gathering discussing how all the kids in a protestant family are named after people from the Bible:  All the kids in my family are named after saints. 
Non-Catholic Neighborboy:  Our church doesn't have saints.  Only Catholics have saints.
My daughter:  Saints are just people who made it to heaven.

The LaCrosse Diocese is having a big training event coming up and in the publicity, it lists what the evangelization classes there will be doing.  It says they will be practicing answering questions like "Why do you wear a cross?" "Why do you bother going to Church every Sunday?"

This is a great idea!  We can gain some confidence from what we can answer and be compelled, hopefully, to study up in areas where our responses are weak.  How can we work this into our regular Church catechesis?  Here's one for you to try.

Conversation 3 
Neighborboy again:  I'm a Christian.  You're a Catholic.  You're not a Christian.
You: ____________________________________________________________

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Making Time (More) Holy

I was impressed, years ago, to learn that people of Islamic faith are required to stop what they are doing at five set times each day and put their face to the carpet in prayer.

The Catholic Church, too, though, makes time holy.  The year flows through a liturgical cycle of colors and saints. In addition, each month of the year and day of the week has traditionally been dedicated to something specific.  For example, every May and every Saturday are dedicated to the Blessed Mother, the souls in purgatory get November and every Sunday is about the Resurrection.

Then there is the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church, which, recited by religious and lay people at set times each day, with the passing of the time zones around the world, sends up a steady stream of prayer and psalms.

The Angelus is traditionally said at 6AM, noon and 6PM; the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3PM.

You bless your meals, right?  Right????  You pray your good-night prayer and maybe your morning offering.

What, you say, you want MORE?!  (You are really "hard-core", you know that?)

I would like to say that spiritually I have reached a place where my whole day was a constant breath of love given and received between my Lord and I.  It would not be true.  So instead of guiding you to that happy place, I propose some rather unusual ideas for more triggers to remind us throughout the course of our days WHO LOVES US!  :)

1)  Hi, God! - Over the course of many years I noticed that I was seeing 1:11 and 11:11 a lot on digital clocks. Not 2:22 or 1:12, always just the "1's".   It got to be a joke with me and then I decided that it was probably just God saying "hi".  My kids think this is funny and always point it out to me.  Then we wave "hi" back to God.  My son enjoys this so much that he has to also wait for and point out 2:22, 3:33, 4:44 . . . 7:77 (just kidding).

2)  Everytime I . . . - Have a favorite memorized prayer?  What daily/hourly/regular activity can you use as a trigger to remind you to say that prayer?  I have experimented with one specific prayer to say when I make the bed, one while doing laundry, even one to pray silently to myself whenever I walk into a bathroom. Maybe praying whenever one gets in a car would be a good trigger.  (To help me remember, I have lots of beginning drivers in my family.)

I would, also, like to be better at "praying the news".  That would be listening to the news like one actually cared about the people talked about and praying for them as one listens.

3) Prayer Clock - Does it seem like there are just SO MANY people you should be praying for, like, forever?  Of course, you need to pray for your family.  Don't forget your godchildren.  Don't forget the poor. Uncle Bob with his surgery coming up . . .

I experimented for a while with dedicating each waking hour of my day to different prayer requests. For example, every 9 - 10 AM could be for the unemployed.  Any prayer-time that happens to occur in that window each day is dedicated to the unemployed.  Any boo-boos (stubbed toes, medical treatments, etc.) that occur during that time would be offered up for that intention.  Any sacrifices made during that window would be offered as well.

These are just some wild ideas about how to make time more holy.  They are not meant to intimidate or obligate.  If you see something you like, TRY IT.  Your suggestions are welcome in the comments section, too.  :)

Babies Battling Bullying

How effective do you think it would be to have a bunch of assemblies and tell a school full of middle or high school students that bullying is bad? You could have a bunch of kids make an anti-bullying video. You could get a bunch of teen leaders to have a club where they try to convince other teens not to bully people.  Considering that most of the people doing the bullying are probably not hanging around with these 4.0 school leaders on a daily basis and probably don't give a ____ what these goody-goodies say or do, I have to believe that we are not winning the anti-bullying war here.

These are all things the local school system has tried recently in what seems like an almost comically-pathetic attempt to combat bullying.  They even tried having some teen volunteers wear the same t-shirt to school every day for a week and experience what it feels like to be teased.  The school administrators are really scrambling to try and solve this problem and I hope that they are successful.

This week Simcha Fisher at National Catholic Register wrote about a program called Roots of Empathy which makes total sense in a back-to-basics, this-is-what-a-human-being-is kind of way.

Classrooms "adopt" babies that visit them monthly throughout the school year.  This has been actually effective, along with the supplied curriculum, in reducing bullying. This definitely makes it onto my list of my favorite easy ideas.  The introductory video is below.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pop-Tart Puppet

(Above, an unrelated video in which our family guinea pig is cleverly disguised as a Pop-tart.)

So there we were eating our breakfast and my son's Nutella-covered Pop-tart fell in his lap and soiled his pajama shirt. He is not one to handle frustration very calmly so when I told him not to cry over spilt milk I was surprised that he considered what I was saying. I told him that a Pop-tart can't MAKE him mad. Is he a Pop-tart's puppet? Can a Pop-tart make him cry? Can a Pop-tart make him sing and dance? Who is the boss of his actions and emotions?

A few weeks ago a teenage student of mine, who I know has had a very traumatic childhood, hounded me to explain how a God who allowed so much suffering to happen to her could be "True". My answer at the time stank and so I have really thought about this a lot.

But now I would say it is all about the Pop-tart thing. In some cases, maybe in many cases, God does keep bad things from happening to us. Many times He does not and it isn't for us to completely understand why. 

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord."
--Isaiah 55:8

So while Christianity doesn't give us the ability to bend life's circumstances completely to our liking, it does allow us to bend our liking to our circumstances. It gives us a way to respond constructively to everything that happens in life. It gives us words of praise and thanksgiving. It gives us a guide for our own behavior in response to whatever the behavior of others toward us may be. It gives us a purpose and good use for our suffering as well as good company with which to share it (Jesus and the saints).

Without this, we are powerless puppets of an outside world that tries to shape and break us. With it, we are victors over life's blows and can tap into an endless source of peace, hope and mercy.

Pop-tart, Schmop-tart.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Valet Parking at Church

Before we found out we were moving to Wisconsin, a good friend asked me if I could see myself living my whole life and dying in Florida.  Yup.  I thought I could.

Six years later I ask myself the same thing about my new home.  Wisconsin is nice enough.  What scares me is how I will get around walking on all this ice when I get older.  The roads in town are plowed/salted and easy enough to drive on but large parking lots can get really icy and bad.  

I have a history of very dramatic public falls, going back to my college days.  This is a big concern as my bones get more crispy and my eyesight worse.

Lots of people in this town and in my church work for 3M.  Engineers, the bunch of them.  So you guys can make a post-it note, and people like you can put men on the moon but you can't keep a parking lot ice-free in winter?  

How am I supposed to get to church when I get old!?  Maybe I can store enough canned beets in the cellar to not have to go out for food for four months, but I gotta go to church!  I even considered buying a house up a hill from church and sliding there every Sunday on my butt.  . . . But, I would have to get up the hill again after Mass.

After agonizing about this for years the idea came to me to start a free valet parking service at church. In one of the most awesome moments of my 21 year marriage, my husband offered to make it happen and run the new program! 

The idea is that macho young people who either don't fall down much or who don't mind falling down, can park and retrieve cars of the more elderly and more squeamish.

Interestingly, in the few weeks we have tried this, the biggest obstacle is getting elderly midwesterners to be willing to be helped.  

My proposed solution?  If people refuse to take advantage of this free service, we should get some cute 6th graders raising money for . . . whatever . . . and exchange valet parking for a donation to the whatever-6th-grade cause.  The kids could wave advertising signs for the service like you do at a car wash (but wearing considerably more clothes) and collect donations.

So this is the key to my growing old and dying in this frozen cheese state.   I hope this works!  :)

Apologetics Pen Pals

Apologetics - the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. (thank you Wikipedia)

So my teenage duaghters are now looking for a fight.

By that I mean that they have been learning stuff about their Catholic faith and are ready to see how it plays in the ring.  The arguments for the Faith have seemed really convincing to us as we read them in our Catholic books.  But, hey, we were an easy crowd since we already started out in agreement.

They are looking to test their debate skills in a "safe" environment and this is mostly self-defense.

At the public high school, my girls seem to be enveloped in a circle of evangelically-minded, non-denominational Christians.   These are friends, classmates and neighbors.  And they are quick to ask a challenging question on the band bus.  They are quick to invite people from other churches to their youth group and super-fun parties.  Really? Indoor bounce houses and giant slip n slides?!?  (I am not making this up.)

Starting a religious debate with a neighbor or a friend seems unwise, especially if you don't have much practice.  And verbal debates usually are won by the person who can think quickest on their feet and who has the best memory for quoting Bible verses.  Does this really reflect what is True and what is not?

I propose the idea of Apologetics Pen Pals.  There must be lots of Protestants wanting to fine-tune their debating skills against Catholics.  It is win-win for both sides.

Here are the rules:

1)  All communication is done by snail mail.

2)  Either person can start the questioning/dialogue with any religious subject they like.

3)  Get information for your debate from anywhere or anyone you like.  If you don't know immediately how to respond, go find out.  Google it.  Ask your parents.  Ask your pastor.  Go read a book about the subject.

4)  You have to state your response yourself.  Quotes are fine, but you can't just refer someone to a book or video and expect them to get your reponse from that.

5)  The person who writes last and gets no response can consider themselves "unrefuted" in the debate.

This is a great opportunity to practice debating respectfully.  The forced, slow pace of the debate lends itself to calm, thoughtful response. Truth does not need yelling or insults to make it true.  Facts are facts.  It either is true or isn't.

This will give kids practice in writing, researching, and expressing their ideas.  In the end, perhaps, both participants will know more about Faith and Truth. (And it is fun to get mail too, right?)

Now, where am I going to find some Protestants ready for a debate?  Can't be THAT hard.  :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Do you know where your pants are?

I was just watching the great Pants on the Ground video in a previous post and it made me want to talk more about pants.  So here you go.  Love this video!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Trees Are For Me

Autumn Love
by Joyce

They're my trees.
You can look, I guess.
But they are for me.
God does that, you know.
It's kind of goofy, romantic.
'Cuz He loves me.
For whatever reason, 
He loves me.

"How about orange trees today?" He says.
. . . And there you go.
"How about red trees?"
. . . Whammo!
He does yellow and even purple sometimes, too.
I say, "Schweet, but I betcha can't do blue."
He tells me there is quite enough blue already.
In the sky.  In the water.
He loves me.
The trees are for me.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Greased Pigs and the LOVE Homily

I no longer think that I am some grumpy old, obsessed-with-rules traditionalist every time I feel barfy during a LOVE Homily.

You know what I am calling LOVE Homilies?  That is when a priest/pastor/speaker goes on for 20 minutes (or, heaven help us, longer) about how we should love one another and how much God loves us.

My negative feelings toward LOVE Homilies were greatly magnified during my year of RCIA.  Before I could join the Catholic Church, apparently it was necessary for me to attend mandatory lectures every Saturday night for almost a year.  The point of all of these lectures, best I can remember, was the repeated stating of the fact that God loves me.

Now this was totally worth it considering the end goal of receiving the sacraments and joining the Catholic Church.  No question.

However!  Let the record show that I was a Protestant at the time so I already knew God loved me.  It would have been more helpful if that time had been used explaining some of the wacky-seeming Mary stuff and Purgatory stuff I would soon be buying into.

And I have been trying to love God and neighbor for all my life and what you see is all the progress the Grace of God has mustered up in me.   I need more help.  Something more specific.

One problem with love is it's elusiveness.  Trying to love is like trying to catch a greased pig.  So here we are with oil on our hands and clothes, tired and gross, sweating and slipping, falling off pigs into mud puddles.  The priest often seems more like a dry cheerleader on the sidelines than anyone with actual helpful expertise in the matter although he certainly wrestles his own pigs too.

A quick google search turned up this wiki-how page on How to Catch a Greased Pig.  I guess that is what I want from a homily.  I want another trick to try like "jump diagonally across onto the pig from your better foot."

And in the end, after years of trying to love, my success rate probably has more to do with the gift of Grace than my ability to jump diagonally while grabbing hold.

How about a homily on how to convince God to give me more Grace.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Guardian Angels and Why I Don't Believe in Germs

- angel as protector from earthly harm - 

Is your Guardian Angel broken?  

Do you find yourself, regardless of your angel's assistance, still in a frequent state of suffering?  What is WITH that?

Why are we told to pray for help from our Guardian Angels?  Aren't Guardian Angels supposed to be always there working for us whether we ask them to or not?  Isn't angel help, like breathing, an automatic process you don't have to think about all the time?  

Here is a common Guardian Angel prayer:

Angel sent by God to guide me
Be my light and walk beside me
Be my guardian and protect me
On the path of life direct me.

Here is another:

Angel of God my guardian dear
In whom his love commits me here
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard
To rule and guide.

Now, even a six year old can figure out that people still die.  People still get sick.  Even a 6 year old, if nothing else, stubs his toe and gets a cold.  It surprises me that more kids don't ask hard questions about this.  This happens even if you say your Guardian Angel prayer every day.  Where is the supposedly protective power of all these angels?

- angel as protector from spiritual harm - 

This picture perhaps shows a more accurate concept of the role of our angels.  This angel looks helpful to me.  I would like to have an angel that helps me out like this.

But, help from Guardian Angels aside, it kind of leads us to the age old question:

Why do bad things happen to good people?  

For that matter, why do bad things happen to bad people?  Where is God in all this and why doesn't He do something?  

Here are some reasons God would allow (not cause, but allow) suffering:

A)  Suffering can build character, empathy, humility and help us to grow in love.

B)  We learn lessons from it.  (Especially if it comes as a consequence of our stupidity or meanness.)

C)  Purgatory  - It is a great virtue to look within ourselves and identify things we are doing/thinking/being that could separate us from close friendship with God.  Those things are called sin.  Going to confession gets us forgiveness but . . .  there is still restitution to be made.  There are still consequences of our forgiven sins that if not paid in this life will likely be waiting for us in Purgatory.

So Purgatory is where we pay off these little debts we accumulate in this life before we move on to Heaven with our shiny, clean souls.  Pain and suffering we experience in this life, if offered to God, goes toward paying off that debt and shortens the time of purification we experience in Purgatory, which is a good thing.  Pain and suffering in this life, when offered to God, is pure POWER.  Here are some things you can use that power for:
  • reducing the time YOU will spend in Purgatory
  • reducing the time someone specific you love spends in Purgatory
  • reducing the time someone you don't know or love spends in Purgatory (What a gift!)
  • making any of your prayer requests more powerful.  Why do you think people fast in the Bible?  Fasting is a good way to show repentance but it, as a form of voluntary suffering offered up, is a special kind of powerful prayer for any kind of intention you have.
This is one reason why some of the saints practiced bodily mortifications.  (Translation:  hurt themselves on PURPOSE)

This is true of physical, emotional and spiritual pain.  This is true of big pain and itty-bitty pain.

NOTE:  Best I can figure out, there are two parts of "offering something up".  One is to make a conscious decision and effort to give it as a gift to God.  Two is to try not to complain about your suffering.  That kind of ruins the gift.  And why complain when you realize your suffering is making you a powerful generator of POWER FOR GOOD.

I have noticed in my family that often after one of us does something unkind that person will have a little accident.  The offender, for example, might storm off in a huff and walk into a doorway.  We also have a suspiciously large number of chair-related injuries in my home.  You too?  OK, maybe that's just me.

What?  No germs?

Back to Guardian Angels - I have come to believe that my Guardian Angel's job is to protect me from RANDOM suffering.  So Notgod is always hanging around trying to cause me pain and suffering any way he can.  Also, I do stupid things.  I make dangerous mistakes.  My life is constantly full of pain and suffering waiting to get me from all these sources.  My Guardian Angel's job is to only let through the suffering that God specifically allows for some good purpose in my life or the lives of others.

So, I do believe germs exist, but I don't believe random germs are going to make me sick.  They can't touch me without God's permission.  And if they get me sick they will be an opportunity God is presenting me.  Then I will have the choice to waste the suffering by moaning and complaining, or I can see it as a gift that some of the saints actually sought out and longed for.  It is a gift I can give.  And when I give God my suffering I am ACTIVELY, AT THAT MOMENT, SAVING MYSELF, SAVING THOSE I LOVE AND SAVING THE WORLD!   I am putting power in the ammunition stores of the powers of good  in the battle against evil.

I will say my Guardian Angel prayer to help me to listen a little harder for my angel's voice, to thank my angel for his vigilance, and to make sure that nothing random happens to me that isn't purely a gift, in whatever kind of wrapping, from the hand of God.

Random, purposeless suffering stinks.  Suffering for someone you love, well . . . ask Jesus.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Make a Rosary Sandwich

My family came up with this image to help a group of middle schoolers follow along with and learn to say the rosary.  Feel free to use it if you like.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It's Fundamentally Chicken

The above picture is non-political, being taking in March 2012, before the big hoo-haw.

My daughter, Gina, has been pretty upset about the Chick-fil-A bashing that has been going on. We have had lengthy discussions about the possible consequences of "unfriending" close family members on Facebook over this.

Her strong feelings have nothing to do with politics, she just loves the darn chicken.  Ever since we moved out of the south she has pined for that yummy peanut-oil fried goodness and waffle fries. The above picture was taken on a recent journey south.  This shows her second visit to Chick-fil-A during a four day trip.

Lest I seem to take sides on this one, please note that her vegetarian sister's (non-political) look of revulsion was cropped out of the picture by request.

So eat chicken or don't.  To each his own.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Be Catholic? Husband v. GPS

It was the best laugh I had had in a long time.  Samantha, the soothing female voice on our family GPS, was indicating a left turn ahead.  She had been warning us about it for two miles.  The husband staunchly refused to get into the left hand lane, doubting that Samantha knew this distant area of Michigan as well as he did. We had passed through this area maybe four times before.

After his repeated denials that a lane change was necessary, it turned out that Samantha was correct and there was much "eating of crow" that followed. 

You know how women tease men about not stopping to ask directions?  Even with someone IN the car GIVING directions, the man said “NO.   I will not follow your directions.”

Samantha:  In 2 miles turn left onto Highway 41 North.
Husband:  No.
Samantha:  In 200 feet turn left onto Highway 41 North.
Husband:  No.
Samantha:  Turn left onto Highway 41 North.
Husband:  No.

Now Samantha can be pretty goofy.  Sometimes she tells you to get off major highways and take service roads, seemingly just because she wants to have a look around.  You always have to be making decisions about whether she knows more than you do.  Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t.  So, although I am teasing my poor hubby mercilessly about this, the chance was really 50/50 that he was correct in disregarding Samantha’s advice.

This brings me to one thing I really like about being Catholic, you have a single point of final answer to your questions and you don’t need to second guess things all the time.  Back in my Protestant days, everything my church told me, like my GPS tells me now, had to be scrutinized and analyzed by me.  To quote Simcha Fisher, "My theology credentials are: I am a housewife with a computer".  Now, of course, I had the Holy Spirit to help me discern.  Catholics and Protestants, alike, though, will tell you that listening for His voice and discernment in general can be tricky and a precarious science.  

There may be times when someone in the Catholic Church might give me a bad steer.  The good news is that with the exception of doing something blatantly against the obvious moral law, my obedience to my superiors (husband, boss, church, parents) always gives me the right answer on God’s final exam. 

Not having to reinvent the wheel by repondering every moral and social issue since history began, frees up time for living the vibrant, joy-filled Catholic life God wants to bless me with . . . and for getting lost in Michigan.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Zeus and Catholicism

The infancy of Zeus

Here is an unusual painting entitled The Infancy of Zeus by Nicolaes Pietersz Berchem.  I would have thought this would be Zeus' "holy family" portrait.  It looks like Joseph, Mary, the baby and the usual assortment of barnyard animals.  I assumed it was Kronos and Rhea with Zeus in the picture.  However, as an interesting contrast to the traditional Nativity scene of our Lord, both parents here are adoptive.  Since Kronos, Zeus' father, had a bad habit of eating his children, Rhea hid Zeus away in the care of this odd family.  Bare breasts aside, the nymph Adrastea who is holding baby Zeus in her lap is not his nurse.  It is actually the goat in the bottom right of the picture.  Check out the look the cow is giving the scene.  Now I am going to be checking out the facial expressions of cows in Nativity scenes.  Are they usually that grumpy?

Remember those Greek gods and goddesses?  They were hanging around for all eternity on Mount Olympus.  Seemingly they had nothing much to do except have sex out of wedlock with all manner of man and beast and then fight with each other.

When I was young and read some of these stories (and that is the extent of my expertise, I do not pretend to be an expert on Greek mythology) I was SO happy that I was not immortal like those guys.

BUT . . .  Now I see that I am.  Not in the way where a mother tells her wild-driving son "You are not IMMORTAL you know!"  Instead, in the gonna-be-around-for-eternity-with-or-without-Jesus way.

We need to remember that even though we are, AMAZINGLY immortal, we are not God.  Our long eternity will be determined pretty much by how well we keep that in mind in our earthly time.

One other interesting point of comparison, the blood of the Greek immortals (like Zeus) was called ichor.  If humans drank it they would die.  In contrast, we drink the blood of Jesus to live, to have life.

I am glad I don't live in Ancient Greece, not knowing what we know today about Christianity and thinking Zeus was the biggest, best thing out there.  And I am happy I live in an era when, hopefully, the cows are happier than the one in the picture.

Liturgical Colors - Not Just for Church Anymore

I love wearing red on Pentecost.  But why stop there?  Some people wear pumpkin sweatshirts on Halloween.  Some wear jingly, festive, red and green outfits on Christmas.  Why not celebrate other Church feasts in our wardrobes?  All days may not be feast days, but all days have a color assigned to them on the liturgical calendar.

Mary days are easy - the color blue once or twice a week (she pretty much gets all the Saturdays).  I played with the idea of trying to wear liturgical colors every day.  This gets tricky during the summer unless one looks really good in, and has lots of wardrobe options in green.

I played with the idea of buying Christmas lights in all the liturgical colors and plugging in the proper one every evening for the day to come.  It is not impossible to find purple and pink but the one's I found had warnings about lead in them so it was not looking like a good project to do with the little ones in the family.

Above is a picture of something my parents made me for my birthday a while ago.  My dad is good at woodworking.  There is a dowel resting on the two hooks.  My mom used to make banners so she sewed some shiny cloth and bric-a-brac in different liturgical colors in double-sided squares, attached in pairs by three black bands that allow them to be draped over the dowel and easily changed every day.  I put the rosary on it just for size perspective.

I TREASURE this . . . um, unnamed thing, they made me.  My 8 year old's job is to check the Church calendar every morning and hang the correct liturgical color.  He thinks it is fun.  If it has been one color for awhile and changes we can talk about the new season or feast.  If it turns red we can look to see who died (what martyr we are celebrating that day).  It is also a conversation piece, and in that sense, an evangelization tool.  Hey, it also looks classier than most of my furniture (my parents do good work).

Someone should steal this idea and mass produce these.  You have my and my parents' permission!  America NEEDS these.  (OK, American needs a lot of things.)

Anyway, let me know if you can think of other ways to celebrate the liturgical colors of the day and season in your home or wardrobe, on Pentecost and beyond.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Did Mary Magdalen Live Happily Ever After?

Tizian 009

I met someone recently who reminded me of St. Mary Magdalen.  She was speaking to a large group of women of the church and sharing the story of the abortion she had and her conversion to the Catholic Church that followed.  Lets call her Emily.

Emily dressed the part.  Her clothes were drapey in a style that was modern enough, yet reminiscent of the earliest Bible heros.  She had an amazing black scarf that she wore somehow stylishly like a mantilla.  Her mood was somber and penitent.

Emily had grown up in a loving, happy family with a summer cabin and the expectation that she would offer her virginity to her husband as her parents had done for each other.  Regarding Mary Magdalen's family, we know that they were "well off" because her brother Lazarus bankrolled much of Jesus' ministry.  Lazarus and Martha's seemingly easy acceptance of Jesus and scandal-free romp through the Bible leads you to expect that the home was full of generally well-behaved and loving people.

We don't know what happened to set Mary Magdalen on a sinful path.  Emily got a boyfriend.

The most amazing part of Emily's story was that she not only knew that she was carrying a baby, but she had bonded with it and looked forward to being its mother and had begun loving it, already.  As encouragement and support seemed to dissolve away from her family and the baby's father (who denied that it was his), the pressures and fear overtook her.  Even while having the actual abortion she was horribly tormented by what she was doing.

So, long story short, after the abortion she became profoundly depressed and fell into every kind of immorality.  She became pregnant out of wedlock a second time, with a different partner -- this time determined to bear and care for the child.  She got help from a local pregnancy center, found Jesus and later found the Catholic Church.  And I mean found the Catholic Church with the heart of a convert and one who knows they have been forgiven MUCH!

I was hoping this room full of mostly elderly women would offer her welcome and acceptance after she shared her story with such humility and regret.  They don't always, you know.  Another friend of mine who had two abortions and then found the Church, much like Emily, was treated to disapproving, judgmental looks and rejection after she shared her story with groups from her Catholic Church.  Thankfully, this group of women did embrace Emily, and well they should.  The power of her ministry of deep public penitence and passion for the Catholic Church is a TREASURE she offers us now.

So did Mary Magdalen live happily ever after?  I talked to Emily afterwards and learned that her story doesn't have an easy THE END attached.  Life goes on.  She is now a single mom trying desperately, for the sake of her son, to build some sort of a life with his father.  With her own view of the world changed so dramatically since the father was chosen as a mate, making that a healthy, long term relationship can be a big challenge.

Wherever there is sin there are consequences, even after God forgives you . . . even after everyone in the neighborhood forgives you and the PCCW church women bring you an extra plate of finger sandwiches.

Jesus came and went from this earth.  I wonder what messes from her earlier life Mary Magdalen struggled with after he left.  It is none of my business.  St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Persecution of Catholics and Gays

If I was young and clever I would love to remake this video and change the lyrics to "You got your scap'lar hangin' out, you got your scap'lar hangin' out, looking like a Catholic with your scap'lar hangin' out!"  Feel free, someone, to steal this idea and send me a link to your video.  I would SO like to see it.

Once again I was fiddling with the straps on my brown scapular today as I was walking on the road by my house.  It is always reminding me of my consecration to the Blessed Mother, day in and day out, as it trys to peek out from under my shirt in grocery store lines and parent/teacher conferences, etc.  Maybe that is the result of simple physics or maybe it has a life of its own. . . hmmmmm.

I am not trying to hide my Catholic Faith but I take visible public signs of it seriously.  You never know when the persecution will resume.  I half expect to see it during my lifetime.  (But then I half expect to see the return of Our Lord, too, so take that for what you will.)

A really alarming sign of the coming persecution is the Catholic-themed newsfeed I see every day on my iGoogle homepage.  It shows the top stories related to the Catholic church in the mainstream press.  Lately it is getting pretty nasty,  maybe even worse than at the height of the clergy sex-abuse scandal.  Boy, threaten people's contraceptives and they turn ugly!

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
                                                            --Mahatma Gandhi

Anyway, I was pondering this as I walked past the house of a woman I know.  She was doing me a favor a few months ago and I was at her house and I had this OHHHHHHHH experience when it dawned on me that she was gay.  She is a very nice woman.  Some of my best friends from high school are gay.  The Church teaching on this one is a little hard to understand.  (See Conversion - the 95% Rule.)

My point is not to question Church teaching.  I accept it and grieve what it must mean for my neighbor (although I think she is of-another-faith and probably doesn't give a flip).

Anyway, now she and I have something in common.  We can both wonder if and when the persecution will come knocking on our door.  Her because she is gay, myself because I am Catholic.  An interesting thing to share with someone.


Update - 2/27/2014 - So I get the Church teaching on homosexuality now.  Here is the best homily I have heard yet on the subject.  It is by Father Mike Schmitz, campus minister at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.  If you like that, you can check out about 200 of his other homilies at this page.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You are a good person. You are kind to small animals. Sometimes you hold the door open for other people.

Once again National Public Radio has earned my membership dollars today.  They ran an incredible story called

Here is an excerpt from the article written by Shankar Vedantam:

"When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can't.
"But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president's control."

The article proposes that, for example, Democrats would feel the pain of inconsistency or "cognitive dissonance" if they thought Obama could do something about gas prices and chose not to.  Logic gets set aside by members of both political parties as we try to find some puzzle pieces that will actually fit together neatly in our brain.  

The proposed solution from Vedantam's story? 

" . . .researchers had voters think of times in their lives when they had done something very positive and found that fortified by this positive memory, voters were more willing to take in information that challenged their pre-existing views."

The article suggested the following morning mantra to protect one's self from bias.  (I THINK they were joking because they had a good giggle afterwards.)
 "I'm a good person. I am kind to small animals. Sometimes I hold the door open for other people."

OK - forget about getting rid of my OWN political bias.  How can I use this to my personal advantage?  This rings true to me.  If one were to say some kind and gentle things about another person's goodness to them before trying to get them to listen to your point, would that open the door and soften their cognitive dissonance defenses?

Of course there are consequences for the person using this approach as well.  When you say something nice to someone else your brain has to either logically determine that the things you are saying to the person are true or that you are a liar.  If your brain doesn't pick one or the other you will have cognitive dissonance unless you do a really good rationalization job and find a "C - none of the above" reason for saying those things.

So for example, Bob tries to manipulate Ted, getting him to lower the defenses around his political ideas, by telling Ted how good and kind he is.   As a result, Bob now begins to believe the kind words he said to Ted. A peaceful and loving world results.  Right?

PreachyPeacePants would love this! And it reminds me of the financial market,  a weird system where everyone working for their own personal good accidentally creates greater good for the world.